Food has always been a means of connection for me. I come from a mixed family, my mom hailing from Pakistan (where I was born) and my dad from rural North Carolina. Growing up primarily in the US, in a white middle-class suburb of DC, my Pakistani heritage often felt inconsequential. The lack of peers with which to speak Urdu often made me squander it, as children tend to be drawn to activities that help them to connect. At the same time, my family’s yearly trips to Islamabad slowly became more and more infeasible. This was due to a variety factors such as cost, political instability, and 5th grade math, the last of which, apparently, would be impossible to pass if I left the country for a month (the only time we could go was for a month in winter, hence, missed classes). As a child, I had begun to feel a disconnect with what I now feel is an integral part of who I am today. In retrospect, the thing that helped me preserve that dwindling connection was food. My mom is an astounding cook and can pretty much prepare anything you ask of her, but the comfort food in my house, as well as my favorite dishes, were always Pakistani: Daal, kema, chapatti, etc. This was all compounded with the fact that the principal place that I spoke Urdu was the kitchen, a phenomenon that probably has something to do with my more expansive vocabulary regarding all things food. Watching/helping my mom cook, sharing meals with my Pakistani and Indian relatives, and speaking Urdu in the kitchen were all things that helped me to maintain some sort of connection with my mixed identity, and it’s something I value a lot today.
My childhood therefore predisposed me to becoming interested in using food to connect people, not only with other cultures, but also within their community. The above was compounded by my increasing awareness of carbon emission issues, food justice and accessibility issues, and food sovereignty issues. I have therefore developed a keen interest in urban farming and communal gardening, as I feel it is a great way to not only foster community, but also to counteract the negative effects of our ever expanding agricultural industry that tends to distance and isolate certain communities from the food production process. This is an interest I hope to develop into a lifelong endeavor, and I am hoping my work in Louisville will serve as a base from which to move forward.